Twentieth Day of Lent   11 comments

The Prophet Jeremiah, from the Sistine Chapel; Painting by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Jeremiah 7:23-28 (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

[Thus said the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel:]

But this is what I commanded them: Do my bidding, that I may be your God and you may be my people; walk only in the way that I enjoin upon you, that it may go well with you.  Yet they did not listen or give ear; they followed their own counsels, the willfulness of their evil hearts.  They have gone backward, not forward, from the day your fathers left the land of Egypt until today.  And though I kept sending all My servants, the prophets, to them daily and persistently, they would not listen to Me or give ear.  They stiffened their necks, they acted worse than their fathers.

You shall say all these things to them, but they will not listen to you; you shall call to them, but they will not respond to you.  Then say to them: This is the nation that would not obey the LORD their God, that would not accept rebuke.  Faithfulness has perished, vanished from their mouths.

Psalm 95:6-11 (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

Come, let us bow down and kneel,

bend the knee before the LORD our maker,

for He is our God,

and we are the people He tends, the flock in His care.

O, if you would but head His charge this day:

Do not be stubborn as at Meribah,

as on the day of Massah, in the wilderness,

when your fathers put Me to the test,

tried Me, though they had seen My deeds.

Forty years I was provoked by that generation;

I thought,

They are a senseless people;

they would not know My ways.

Concerning them I swore in anger,

They shall never come to My resting-place.

Luke 11:14-23 (The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition):

Another time, Jesus was expelling an evil spirit which was preventing a man from speaking, and as soon as the evil spirit left him, the dumb man found his speech, to the amazement of the crowds.

But some of them said,

He expels these spirits because he is in league with Beelzebub, the chief of the evil spirits.

Others among them, to test him, tried to get a sign from Heaven out of him.  But he knew what they were thinking and told them,

Any kingdom divided itself is doomed and a disunited household will collapse.  And if Satan disagrees with Satan, how does his kingdom continue?–for I know you are saying that I expel evil spirits because I am in league with Beelzebub.  But if I expel devils because I am an ally of Beelzebub, who is your own sons’ ally when they do the same thing?  They can settle that question for you.  But if it is by the finger of God that I am expelling evil spirits, then the kingdom of God has swept over you here and now.

When a strong man armed to the teeth guards his own house, his property is secure.  But when a stronger man comes and conquers him, he removes all the arms on which he has pinned his faith and divides the spoil among his friends.

Anyone who is not with me is against me, and the man who does not gather with me is really scattering.

The Collect:

Keep watch over your Church, O Lord, with your unfailing love; and, since it is grounded in human weakness and cannot maintain itself without your aid, protect it from danger, and keep it in the way of salvation; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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The law of God is perfect and revives the soul.  And the judgments of God and righteous, even when we mere mortals do not understand them.  The essence of this law is to love God, one’s neighbors, and oneself.  We need (if we have not done so yet) to get outside ourselves and think of others more often that we think of ourselves.  And we need to recognize and embrace basic goodness. Jeremiah, the Psalmist, and Jesus knew well many people around them fell short of this standard.  And they knew the consequences.

As I read church history I encounter a mixed record.  It tells of great acts of love and charity, of rebuilding and maintaining learning and society.  And the annals of church history mention inquisitions, the burning of alleged heretics, the conduct of religious wars and persecutions, the banning of books and silencing of alleged heretics, the use of the Old and New Testaments to defend chattel slavery and racial segregation.  My library contains a 1971 book called Sermons in American History.  This volume arranges sermons in a point-counterpoint format according to topics, dating back to the colonial era.  Among these sermons is a 1954 oration called “God the Original Segregationist,” by Dr. Carey Daniel, Pastor of First Baptist Church, West Dallas, Texas.  As of 1971 Daniel continued to sell copies of the sermon via mail.

One might think that the Golden Rule, being straight-forward, would be easy to understand.  Do to others that which you would have them do to you.  Do not do others what you would not have them do to you.  So, why defend segregation and slavery and burn convicted heretics at the stake?  Can we not distinguish between basic goodness and evil?

There is an old story, which might be apocryphal.  Yet its point is true.  Late in his life the Apostle John visited a Christian congregation.  The gathered people were excited, of course, anticipating the wisdom John would impart.  Some men carried the elderly and frail Apostle (in a chair) into the house where the church met and set him down in front of the group.  John said, “My children, love one another.”  Then he motioned for the men to pick up the chair and carry him out.  One disappointed church member ran after the Apostle, saying, in essence, “That’s it?”  John replied, “When you have done that, I will tell you more.”

Jesus has come.  His Church continues.  The Kingdom of God has swept over us.  Let us show this Kingdom to others by our love for God, our fellow human beings, and ourselves.

KRT

Written on February 28, 2010

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